Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It just got harder to find female participants

Posted: November 28, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I was invited to do a commentary on a paper for a high profile philosophy blog. It was on a topic that I published one paper on a few years ago, but since moved away from, so I suspected that I was the token female commentator rather than one of the first people to come to mind.
Nevertheless, I had done a lot of research on the topic before, and was happy to brush up on recent developments in order to do a decent job with the commentary. The paper was not very well written, so my main complaint was that it was difficult to tell what the main claim was (was it X or Y?), and what the motivations for that claim were (if it’s claim Y, then why are details A, B, C necessary?). I suggested a simpler logical formalism that as far as I could tell would do all the work required. I asked, genuinely hoping for clarification of points that were very confusingly elaborated in the paper, what the reasons were for needing a more complicated model, and what my simpler proposal missed. I posed my questions in technical language, and provided a clear alternative, so if he had wanted to engage with my comments, and he actually had an answer to my question, it would have been easy to reply constructively.
In retrospect I should have known that it might nevertheless be read as saying “I’m just a stupid girl and math is hard. Won’t you please explain it to me?” which is essentially how he interpreted it. The reply to my comments by the author didn’t engage with my commentary at all. In a reply that was less than half the length of his reply to any other commentary, he essentially waved his hand in the air in dismissal, and suggested that I should read his paper more carefully. Even though I knew that lack of care in reading was not the problem, I dutifully read it again, and still it was not at all clear.
I figured it would be useless to engage him any further, but for the sake of the audience’s impressions of the exchange, I decided to press the point once more in the online discussion forum, making it clear that my problem was not general lack of comprehension skills, but rather a detailed question about the content of the paper. Again he was utterly dismissive, but I hope that readers could at least see through his arrogance.
I drew two conclusions from this experience:
1) When an editor asks a token female to contribute to such a discussion, they have a responsibility to make sure that the other participants don’t act dismissively towards her, at least if they are genuinely concerned with representing diverse viewpoints. It would have been easy and entirely appropriate for the editor to tell the author that his response to my commentary was not fit to print, and to ask him to revise it.
2) Never again will I spend time that I could have been spending writing a paper of my own being a token female in such a discussion. It just got harder for well-meaning event organizers to find female participants.

The harms of accepted, wanted advances

Posted: November 23, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

Many posts on here, and in my life, as about male faculty making unwanted advances. This is disgusting,and creates an awful and violent atmosphere. There are many instances of just horrid comments made in passing. But what I want to address here is the physic and emotional harms that come from accepted wanted advances.

In my MA, I had a supervisor who was I was very excited to be working with. His own work touched on feminist thought, critical race, and politics, so I assumed he knew about the state of the discipline. He recommended this very blog to me. His own background was similar to mine, so we spent a lot of time talking about what it was like to be a first-generation college student, to be from poverty and afraid that any moment someone would take what we had found away. He was vegetarian, and I vegan, so we would talk about that, too (however, he was lying, he eat meat). I really respected him, and I had had so few mentors in my life that I wasn’t always really aware he was flirting with me or treating me differently. I thought we were both friends and academic equals. I thought he cared about my mind and ideas.

He told me I was like the first girl he ever fell in love with, totally insecure and beautiful. The kind of girl that you always feel scared to be with because she doesn’t realize how amazing she is, and one-day will and will be totally out your league. I took that as a compliment, however weird it was. The thing was, I wanted him to like me. I even wanted him to love me. The first night we had sex, I was so drunk that I hardly remember it. I remember making out with him in public, and in our small college town it was certainly not discrete. I remember saying I should go home, and him pulling my arm and wanting to go even though I thought I should say no. After that, we had a one week fling. I was cheating on my boyfriend, and him his wife. He told me many details about other students and faculty, I knew all the department business, which I ought not have known. But I felt wanted, like I was special and that nothing was going to change my place in the department, or my own life. He went away on a fellowship, and wrote me love letters, and sexy letters. He told me he loved me, and wanted me to leave my boyfriend, and he would finish the process of divorce with his wife (from whom he told me he was separated).

Then, abruptly, one day he told me it was over. Not just over, but that I shouldn’t’ contact him. I was supposed to write my thesis over that summer, so I was a little at a loss as to how to write it without him. He didn’t answer me. I moved away, telling my chair I’d work from a different city. My supervisor continued to ignore me, only occasionally asking for chapters.

We ran into each other at a conference, after all this silence, and he held my hand under the table and held a door closed and refused to let me leave a room until I agreed to kiss him. Everyone saw this, and it was all very embarrassing. He told the entire party at the after event that I was a heartbreaker, and ruining his marriage. To this day, one of the participants there still tells people I got to where I am by sleeping my way there (to be clear, I am not at a top 50 school). The day after he told me he was hopelessly in love with me, and couldn’t’ do anything. He missed me and knew we could work it out. I knew it was not the thing to want, but I felt better hearing it.

After that, he texted me and told me from now on never to email him unless it was a chapter, and only to address him as Dr., never by is name, but said he still thought we should work together. Shortly after this, his wife called and harrassed me. She told me I was a bad feminist, and that she would call every school I was applying to for PhD and tell them I was a slut who ruined her marriage. He completely ignored me for a month after that. I finally got him on his office phone. We talked and he nearly cried and begged me not to tell anyone and to stay his student. I did. I should not have. Eventually I finished, but not through his support. I spent the next year so depressed and so full of self-doubt that I had to stop working. I was bed ridden and was so completely unsure of my abilities.

I started a PhD program the next year and was unable to do the work because I had lost confidence in myself. It was only in transferring out of that program and starting again now, four years later, that I have any sense of self-worth. I still think I am a horrible philosopher and have very bad anxiety. I mistrust almost every philosophical intuition I have and am, at times, convinced that maybe I did sleep myself to where I am–no where great. I was sharp and eager, and now I am in a middle of the road school, and don’t try very hard. I refuse to have a male supervisor, which is a little hard to explain without the whole story, which I don’t want to share. I wish so much I could go back to myself four years ago, and tell myself that no matter how much I thought I wanted that attention, that it was so inappropriate of him, and would totally wreck me. I guess this is a story about what it is like to be a woman in philosophy who accepts the invitation, and one way it can go. There are sad lonely male faculty members who prey on insecure female students, maybe never with the intention of harm, but it has to stop.

Gratuitous rape joke

Posted: October 20, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

This comic was sent to a junior faculty colleague at another institution in a message addressed to all members of the department. Here is the dialogue:

Kant: Hey, Hume.
Hume: Yes, Kant?
Kant: Do you know the difference between your mother and the categorical imperative?
Kant: I never violated the categorical imperative.
Hume: [crying]

I wonder how others might respond to the receipt of such comic by one’s senior colleague.

The wrong attitude toward name choices

Posted: September 1, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I got married and adopted my husband’s last name. Since then, a half-dozen “feminist” philosophers (both men and women) have commented on my name. Not a single one of them had anything nice to say. I’ve often been made to feel that I betrayed feminism and women in philosophy by getting married to a man, and made things even worse by taking his name and living in a somewhat traditional marriage (I currently work only part-time and am the primary caregiver in our home). It’s as though they feel sorry for me, like a victim of domestic violence who returns to her attacker or something, and I hate that feeling. I wish philosophers were more open-minded towards marriage of all kinds.

The only other woman has been dead 125 years

Posted: August 27, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

First day of first metaphysics philosophy class..

The next semester will be me, seating round table with 16 males, exploring the relationship between fiction and philosophy, beginning with a reading of Middlemarch.

The only other woman in this class has been dead 125 years!

I recently presented a paper on a panel at a national conference. I was happy to get on the panel because it was related to a growing interdisciplinary field which I’d like to incorporate into my research. So I went with the aim of making some new connections in this field.

One of the other panelists (a male grad student) expressed interest in my paper, and offered several helpful comments during the question period. After the session, he gave me his email and asked me to contact him to discuss the paper further and to talk about co-writing a paper with him. I am not particularly interested in co-writing (especially with people I don’t know), but since I am trying to make connections in this field, I decided to contact him.

He responded by writing that of course he remembered me from the conference; how could he forget someone who was so beautiful? And also who presented an interesting paper (though this read like an afterthought). He then said that he really knew I was beautiful because he is gay and therefore could not simply be flattering me. He said he’d be too busy to discuss work until the fall but would like to skype to “get to know me better.”

I felt demeaned and objectified. Even though I know better, I started wondering what I had worn during the presentation and if I had worn something different if he would have said the same thing.

A hellish nightmare from beginning to end

Posted: July 28, 2015 by Jender in Uncategorized

My experience at an MA program was a hellish nightmare from beginning to end.  I hesitate to say more for fear of further retaliation.  I just want to caution those of you out there who are thinking about coming forward to report sexual predators.  Expect your department to turn on you; expect your department to retaliate against you.  Expect to be bad mouthed at every PhD program to which you apply.  Expect to lose your committee.  Expect to lose your letter writers.  Expect your department to withdraw all support from you.  Expect to become persona non grata.  Expect to be de facto barred from all opportunities in your department.  Expect to be gas-lighted.  Expect people to be thrilled to watch your fall from grace.  And, then, when you succeed, against all odds, and despite the prodigious efforts of your department to the contrary, through sheer force of will and talent, expect your department to exploit your success at every opportunity.  Expect to watch as your success is used to further the career of the predator.  Expect them to ignore your pleas to stop.  Expect this.